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Culture > News

How to Cope When the Headlines Hurt

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

Passive news consumption is something we’re likely all guilty of. Today it’s difficult to escape news coverage as social media platforms have made it all the easier to casually consume the headlines. Though this is in some ways a great thing as Gen Z is very up-to-date, there is really something to be said about how it can impact your well-being.

Where it often goes wrong is when we’re faced with a large volume of negative stories and are casually consuming them. It gets to a point where passive news consumption can actually hinder us more than it helps us. I think it really cannot be understated that sometimes the news can be difficult for our well-being. News anxiety is very much real and can be really overwhelming to deal with, especially if you identify with and or find the stories distressing.

It is so important to read news stories. It is also, however, worth knowing what to do next and how to find ways to personally cope with the stories you have just read. I have compiled a list of ways that I cope with reading negative stories and how we can move forward toward a better future in whatever way we can.

Know your personal limits when keeping informed

This feels particularly important. If stories relate to you or a group you identify with, then it’s only natural to want to feel informed and up-to-date. However, it is important to be aware of your own personal limits and boundaries surrounding these issues. If you feel as though the news is hindering your well-being too much, it’s worth taking a break from the articles that you’ve been consuming.

It is vital to keep in tune with how you’re feeling. Taking a break from the news or limiting your news consumption to an hour or less a day may help. It’s important to note that how you feel may change from day to day. Some days it may be worth turning off altogether and tuning out, some days you may be able to handle slightly more. It is always important to take a break and evaluate how you’re feeling.

There is a real need for all of us to acknowledge that passive news consumption can be damaging to our well-being. Taking breaks and actively deciding whether reading a news story is good for you is important. If you desire to keep up to date with an issue but are aware that passive and excessive news consumption may be difficult for you, then this is the perfect compromise.

Accepting that some things are beyond our control

This is a difficult one. There can be so much pressure to put energy into fixing everything that is wrong with the world and stressing about things that are out of your control. This is something I’ve really struggled with in the past.

Sometimes, and this may be challenging, you have to accept that there’s only so much one person can do and a lot of the time deep rooted issues take a collective effort to solve. It is impossible for one person to take that entire responsibility upon themselves and sometimes it’s worth accepting that some things are out of your control. You can only do as much as you can to help and you cannot change the way things are in the world all by yourself.

Understand why this piece of news is bothering you and what this means to you

If a news story is bothering you, it’s worth identifying why exactly this is. More importantly, what exactly about the news article is upsetting, angering, or hurting you? This is one of the best ways of trying to move forward and learning how to deal with the news. Once you know why you feel bothered or unsettled, you will be able to direct your attention to potential solutions. It’s about looking at the news stories and thinking about why you, based on your personal circumstances and background, may be affected by the stories. Once you’ve identified what exactly has been bothering you, you can move your attention to what this means to you. Whether you’re willing to commit yourself to a charity or cause that attempts to solve or take steps towards solving the issue at hand.

Engage with causes and charities that help with the issue at hand

Sometimes the uncertainty of the stories you read can bring on anxiety and overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. However, after you’ve identified why the stories are bothering you and what they mean to you, you can find corresponding charities and causes that deal with the issues at hand. It is important to recognise that you’re not alone in feeling this way and that many other people do too. There are plenty of causes and charities you can support out there which deal with the issues that are troubling you. The beauty of them is that they try to invoke change through collective action. Through coming together, a collective good can be achieved. Indeed, doing so can help you feel empowered and less hopeless.

Use your voice and speak up

If you’re feeling particularly frustrated by what you’ve read then you could make your opinion known and this may help you deal with these feelings better. It’s highly likely you will feel fulfilled by expressing yourself; your opinion will be really meaningful in trying to generate change.

Though, if what you’re feeling is impassioned and angry then it might be worth supporting and campaigning for political policies and parties. With strong emotions, you can campaign more effectively and persuasively as you will have a genuine desire and support for the policies and or party that you’re campaigning for.

If upset and mild frustration is what you’re feeling or there aren’t current political policies that you could campaign for, it might be worth writing a blog piece as this will still help you express your emotions. Writing to an audience may give you a sense of purpose and help with feelings of hopelessness triggered by reading these news stories.
Alternatively, if you want to make your feelings known and feel like you have a direct link and personal experiences you want to share, you could always approach a news outlet with your personal story. By doing this, you’re contributing to the impact of the issue at hand and joining the many before you who have also come forward and shared their own experiences. This is a way of you feeling a part of something and will help you overcome your feelings of hopelessness.

reach out

It is important to prioritise your own mental health when it comes to consuming these news stories. If you feel as though you’re overwhelmed by the content of these stories to the point of needing professional help or you are struggling to go about your daily life because of these stories, it’s definitely worth seeking professional advice or help.

I’ve compiled some useful links to reach out to if the impact of the headlines are severely impacting your well-being:

  • NHS information and advice for finding suitable therapy and counselling services
  • NHS advice on how to find your local mental health services.
  • Join Side by Side: Mind’s online community to connect with others over shared experiences.
  • Visit Hub of Hope to find mental health charities wherever you live.
  • Samaritans are willing to listen to you and are willing to talk about anything that’s upsetting you 24/7. You can call 116 123 for free from any phone or email jo@samaritans.org.
  • There is a Samaritans Welsh Language Line open from 7 pm until 11 pm every day. The number is 0808 164 0123.
  • You can call Campaign Against Living Miserably or ‘CALM’ on 0800 58 58 58 from 5 pm until midnight. This is for if you’re struggling and need to talk.
  • If you wouldn’t like to talk but still want some mental health support, you can text SHOUT to 85258.
  • Alternatively, it may be worth speaking to your GP.

It is also worth reaching out to loved ones and friends if you’re really struggling with the headlines as they’re often more than willing to help. Spending time talking with them and talking through it may help. Though, it may help to completely distract yourself from the headlines and spend time with them doing other things to help with your well-being. Spending time with them and appreciating the good may help to counter the emotions you have felt
reading the stories.

Headlines should inform you and though they may sometimes impact your emotions, you should never feel overwhelmed by them. If they’re making your day-to-day life difficult it’s important to reach out and get help in whatever capacity you can.

Hi, my name's Anna and I'm a third year BA Philosophy and Theology student at the University of Exeter. I'm interested in writing pieces on current affairs and sex and relationships (and Harry Styles because I'm such a huge fan, haha).